“…He Who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
Continuing in our journey through the letter to first century Christian Jews, we are presented with a reasonable explanation of Christ being the final sacrifice. The writers described the law as a shadow of the good things to come, and because of that, the same sacrifices repeated year after year can never make perfect those who draw near to worship. If the sacrifices had made the worshipers perfect, those sacrifices would have stopped being offered, since the worshipers would have stopped feeling guilty for their sins. (v.’s 1-2)
The writers concluded the basis of their supporting argument, pointing to Christ’s atoning work on the cross, inferred in their statement of the third verse:
“But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (10:3; see Leviticus 16:34 and Psalm 40:6-8)
The writers then transition to God’s design for faith in Christ:
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased.’ Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about Me in the scroll – I have come to do Your will, O God.’” (v.’s 5-7)
Presenting a progression of the New Covenant through Jesus Christ, five essential points are presented to the reader:
1. Though the law required burnt offerings, they did not satisfy God’s divine standard. (v.8)
2. Jesus satisfied God’s divine standard, offering His body once for all. (v.’s 9-14)
3. The Holy Spirit is recognized as active in testifying of Christ and the new covenant, when referring to Jeremiah 31:33 of God’s promise to make a new covenant. (v.’s 15-16)
4. God’s promise to forget sinful and lawless acts is also remembered from Jeremiah 31:34. (v.17)
5. The new order, then, supernaturally progresses to having no need for continued sacrifices. (v.18)
Those five points were earth-shattering… mind-blowing… pivotal to the first century Jewish tradition: it abandoned any further use of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus had taken over that role – permanently. (v.’s 19-22) No more annual treks to Jerusalem. No more need to buy sacrifices from the ‘temple vendors’ – destroying a centuries old tradition of works (as well as the practice of buying one’s redemption). No more abuses by priests profiting in the scandalous practices of Eli’s sons.
The Jewish Christians were encouraged to continue meeting together, even in the midst of persecution. (v.’s 23-25) Those who continued in rebelling against God’s way of holiness and purity are given a stern warning, describing their actions as trampling over the blood of the covenant. (v.’s 26-31) The converts are then directed to remember the zeal they practiced after receiving “the light”:
· They stood strong in the face of suffering (v. 32);
· They endured public humiliation (v. 33);
· They sympathized with those imprisoned for their faith (v. 34a);
· They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property without denying their faith (v.34b);
The chapter closes with the promise of Christ’s return, instructing the newborn believers to not shrink back to their old practice of ‘works’, but to continue by faith in Jesus Christ… it’s a call to persevere through hardship, persecution, and doubt.
Here we are – over two thousand years later… still awaiting Christ’s return. Christians around the world are facing increasing persecution, mockery, brutality of every kind, and even death. This portion of Hebrews encourages us to hold on to the truth of God’s Word, trusting in God’s timing for the day Jesus will return and claim His bride, The Church. It is a dynamic of faith… completely trusting God to work things out in His way… in His time. As Christians in America are the object of increasing aggression, we must remember that we, like Jesus, are a sheep being led to slaughter. It’s not a pretty picture; which is why we must hold on to the promise of better and lasting possessions (v.34).
Keep the faith. Live the faith. Know the Source of our Faith.
He Who promised is faithful!